Vaccinium angustifolium

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Lowbush blueberry
Vaccinium angustifolium, Pancake Bay PP.jpg
Pancake Bay Provincial Park, Ontario
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Vaccinium
Species:
V. angustifolium
Binomial name
Vaccinium angustifolium
Aiton 1789 not Benth. 1840[1]
Synonyms[2]
  • Cyanococcus angustifolium (Aiton) Rydb.
  • Vaccinium nigrum (Alph. Wood) Britton

Vaccinium angustifolium, commonly known as the wild lowbush blueberry, is a species of blueberry native to eastern and central Canada (from Manitoba to Newfoundland) and the northeastern United States, growing as far south as the Great Smoky Mountains and west to the Great Lakes region.[3][4] Vaccinium angustifolium is the most common species of the commercially used wild blueberries and is considered the "low sweet" berry[5].

Etymology[edit]

The species epithet angustifolium is a combination of the Latin words angustum meaning 'narrow', and folium meaning 'leaf'. It shares this epithet with other species of plants including Epilobium angustifolium and Lavandula angustifolia.

Description[edit]

V. angustifolium growing in a forest of another fire-adapted species, Pinus banksiana

Vaccinium angustifolium is a low spreading deciduous shrub growing 5 to 60 cm (2 to 24 in) tall.[6] Its rhizomes can lay dormant up to 100 years, and when given the adequate amount of sunlight, soil moisture, and oxygen content they will sprout.[citation needed] The leaves are glossy blue-green in summer, turning a variety of reds in the fall. The leaf shape is broad to elliptical. Buds are brownish red in stem axils. The flowers are white or pink[7], bell-shaped, 4 to 6 mm (0.16 to 0.24 in) long. The fruit is a small sweet dark blue to black berry, full of antioxidants and flavonoids. This plant grows best in wooded areas, old abandoned farmyards or open areas with well-drained acidic soils. In some areas it produces natural blueberry barrens, where it is practically the only species covering large areas.[8]

Several buds may be on a healthy stem, and each bud can open up and have several blossoms. A blueberry field that has full plant coverage can have as many as 150 million blossoms per acre.

The Vaccinium angustifolium plant is fire-tolerant, and its numbers often increase in an area following a forest fire. Traditionally, blueberry growers burn their fields every few years to eliminate shrubs and fertilize the soil. In Acadian French, a blueberry field is known as a brûlis (from brûlé 'burnt') because of that technique, which is still in use.

History[edit]

Indigenous people, such as the Wabanaki, were the first to grow the Vaccinium angustifolium wild crop in a more domestic manner, and initially developed the burn then harvest cycle[9] dating back at least 10,000 years [10].

English settler's picked and enjoyed these wild fruits in the 1600s after arriving to the coast of Maine[9]. The Union Army also enjoyed them during the American Civil War, thanks to the development of canning techniques attributed to Louis Pasteur[10]. These fruits became a staple in the army's diet for their ease of preservation and nutritional benefits such as preventing scruvy.

Overtime the wild blueberry industry took off. The Industrial Revolution and the invention of various pesticides made farming much easier[9]. This combined with better canning techniques and freezing, grew the wild blueberry industry tremendously. Twenty one canning factories were open by 1950.

Today, 485 wild blueberry farms exist in varying sizes from 20 to thousands of acres[9][11].

The Maine Tax on Blueberries 1945, was requested and created by a group of farmers in order to fund research into the wild blueberry crop[9]. Additionally, the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine was formed to help with the research and the promotion of this industry.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The lowbush blueberry is native to central and eastern Canada as well as north-central and eastern United States.[12] In its native habitat the plant grows in open conifer woods, old fields, and sandy or rocky balds.[13]

Geographical Change[edit]

Glacier ice from the Ice Age sculpted the Maine landscape and is responsible for creating some of the most productive Vaccinium angustifolium habitat[14]. Many sandy eskers, deltas, and moraines all are home to wild blueberries. Glacier movement and erosion created "barrens" that are the most productive and largest habitat for Vaccinium angustifolium.

Ecology[edit]

Many animals feed on the fruit and foliage of the lowbush berry, some of which include black bears, racoons, foxes, white-tailed deer and birds.[6]

Its leaves are also popular among caterpillars. It is a larval host to the pale tiger moth, the peppered moth,[15] the chain-dotted geometer, the saw-wing moth, the blueberry gray moth, the mousy angle moth,[16] Caloptilia vacciniella, Andromeda underwing, the shadowy arches, the two-spot dart,[17] the dingy cutworm moth, the speckled cutworm,[18] the decorated owlet, the pirate looper, Norman's dart, the gray swordgrass moth, the pink-edged sulphur butterfly, the pawpaw sphinx moth, and the blueberry leaftier moth.

Production Cycle[edit]

Vaccinium angustifolium has a two year production cycle[19]. The first year is known as the vegetative year and the second is known as the fruit-bearing year.

In order to be productive each year, most farmers divide their land to have half their crop in the vegetative year while the other half is in the bruit-bearing year[20].

Pruning[edit]

Native Americans regularly burned away trees and shrubs in parts of eastern Maine to stimulate blueberry production. Modern farmers use various methods of burning or mowing to accomplish this.[21] There are several methods growers use to stimulate blueberry production on their land, such as burning the land or using a flail mower, bush hog, lawnmower, etc. to cut the plants off as close to the ground as possible without scalping the land. These procedures are used to promote the spreading of rhizomes under the soil. Some growers use a sickle bar mower in the fall after the crop has been harvested to mow the plants off, leaving roughly 1 to 2 inches of stem so the growers can then burn the remainder of the plants in the spring, using less fuel for the fire.

Farmers then treat their crops with pesticides to control weeds and insects[22]. The fields are then left for new growth to emerge, develop, and flourish for the remainder of the year.

Pollination[edit]

During the harvest or fruit bearing year, blueberry growers rent honey bee hives to put in their fields for pollination. These hives are placed in the fields at a density range of anywhere from 1-8 hives per acre. The hives are placed in the fields at 10-20% bloom allowing the bees to have enough forage rather than going elsewhere to forage. Hives are left in blueberry fields for 2 weeks on average, allowing the bees to pollinate the variety of clones in the field, all of which bloom at different times during the two-week period.

Some growers also use bumble bees as well in hopes of maximum pollination. Bumblebees will fly in colder and wetter weather conditions than the honey bee will, and they also pollinate in a different way than the honey bee. Bumblebees can sonicate the flowers, which releases pollen from deep inside the poricidal anthers. This is known as buzz-pollination.

Blueberry growers also rely on many wild bees for pollination, including solitary bees like Andrena carlini and Colletes inaequalis.[23]

Farmers then irrigate their crops and control insects until the berries fully ripen[24]. Once ripe, farmers will harvest the berries by hand using a rake or push harvester, or by using a Bragg harvester tractor attachment. Once all berries are harvested the cycle repeats itself.

Nutritional Information[edit]

Wild blueberries are more nutritious than regular blueberries, containing twice the amount of antioxidants, 33% more fiber, and 33% more anthocyanins[25].

Vitamins[edit]

Fresh wild blueberries have been studied and found to contain Vitamins A and C, Niacin, Riobflavin, and Thiamin[26]. With freezing, Vitamin A concentration increases while Vitamin C concentration significantly decreases[26].

Antioxidants[edit]

Wild blueberries contain many antioxidants including polyphenols such as anthocyanin[26]. Anthocyanins are flavonoids found in the skin of the berries, and are what give the blueberries their blue color. Unripe berries contain high amounts of polyphenols, but limited amounts of anthocyanins. The anthocyanin content increases with ripeness of the berries.

These antioxidants found in wild blueberries generally decrease the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and decrease the effects of aging[26]. Specifically, they protect against "free radicals", improve digestion, vascular and brain function, and decrease inflammation[26].

Most of the time, antioxidants are lost in storage or freezing of wild blueberries[26]. The greatest loss of antioxidants occurs when berry juice leaks or is lost, they are exposed to heat greater than 158˚F (70˚C), they are dehydrated, or the berry product (juice or jam) is stored at room temperature. Antioxidant loss can me minimized using a variety of methods. Berries or berry products can be cooled, fermented, freeze dried with low heat 104-140°F (40-60°C), pasteurized, steam balanced, and a few others or the combination of methods.

Minerals[edit]

The soil in which wild blueberries grow has a low pH of about 4.0-5.0, which allows the plant to absorb many minerals[26]. Additionally, farmers will use Sulfur to deter weeds which lowers the pH even further.

The leaves have been noted to contain: Aluminum, Boron, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Lead, Magnesium, Manganese, Nickel, Phosporus, Potassium, Silicon, Sulfur, Titanium, and Zinc[26].

The stem and berries have been noted to contain: Aluminum, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosporus, Potassium, Sulfur, and Zinc[26].

Freezing does not change the concentration of most the of the minerals, it only effects the concentration of Magnesium[26].

Products[edit]

Blueberry frozen yogurt

Roughly 90% of wild low bush blueberries are sold IQF (Individual Quick Frozen). Some berries are fresh-packed during harvest season and sold at farm markets and grocery stores. There is 100% pure wild blueberry juice on the market. The fruit can be used to make a wide variety of food products such as blueberry smoothies, blueberry sauce for waffles, blueberry grunt, blueberry lemon loaf, blueberry crisp, blueberry muffins, blueberry jam, blueberry martinis. It can be used for a topping on cereal or yogurt.

Nova Scotia wild blueberries are exported to the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, and other countries.

State fruits[edit]

Giant blueberry person in Oxford, Nova Scotia

The lowbush blueberry is the state fruit of Maine,[27] and the wild low bush blueberry is also the Nova Scotian Provincial Berry.[28] Oxford, Nova Scotia is nicknamed "Wild Blueberry Capital of Canada."[29] Maine's state dessert is blueberry pie made with wild blueberries[30].

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Vaccinium angustifolium". Tropicos. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  2. ^ "Vaccinium angustifolium". World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – via The Plant List.
  3. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Vaccinium angustifolium". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 2013-08-04.
  4. ^ "Vaccinium angustifolium". County-level distribution map from the North American Plant Atlas (NAPA). Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2014.
  5. ^ "About Maine Wild Blueberry - Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries - University of Maine Cooperative Extension". Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  6. ^ a b Tirmenstein, D. A. (1991). "Vaccinium angustifolium". Fire Effects Information System (FEIS). US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service (USFS), Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.
  7. ^ "About Maine Wild Blueberry - Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries - University of Maine Cooperative Extension". Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  8. ^ Vander Kloet, Sam P. (2009). "Vaccinium angustifolium". In Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.). Flora of North America North of Mexico (FNA). Vol. 8. New York and Oxford – via eFloras.org, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  9. ^ a b c d e "About Maine Wild Blueberry - Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries - University of Maine Cooperative Extension". Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  10. ^ a b "Collections | Wild Blueberry Heritage Center". Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  11. ^ "Home | Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine". Wild Blueberry Commi. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  12. ^ "Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science". Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 2022-10-08.
  13. ^ "Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin". www.wildflower.org. Retrieved 2022-10-08.
  14. ^ "Geological History and Climate Change | Wild Blueberry Heritage Center". Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  15. ^ "Species Biston betularia - Pepper & Salt Geometer - Hodges#6640". bugguide.net.
  16. ^ "Species Macaria argillacearia - Mousy Angle Moth - Hodges#6282". bugguide.net.
  17. ^ "Species Eueretagrotis perattentus - Two-spot Dart Moth - Hodges#11008". bugguide.net.
  18. ^ "Species Lacanobia subjuncta - Speckled Cutworm - Hodges#10299". bugguide.net.
  19. ^ "Two-Year Wild Blueberry Production Cycle - Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries - University of Maine Cooperative Extension". Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  20. ^ "About Maine Wild Blueberry - Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries - University of Maine Cooperative Extension". Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  21. ^ "The University of Maine - Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries - 229-Pruning Lowbush Blueberry Fields". Umaine.edu. 1914-06-30. Retrieved 2013-08-04.
  22. ^ "Two-Year Wild Blueberry Production Cycle - Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries - University of Maine Cooperative Extension". Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  23. ^ Bushmann, Sara L.; Drummond, Francis A. (August 2015). "Abundance and Diversity of Wild Bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) Found in Lowbush Blueberry Growing Regions of Downeast Maine". Environmental Entomology. 44 (4): 975–989. doi:10.1093/ee/nvv082. ISSN 1938-2936. PMID 26314043. S2CID 23922592.
  24. ^ "Two-Year Wild Blueberry Production Cycle - Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries - University of Maine Cooperative Extension". Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  25. ^ "Home | Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine". Wild Blueberry Commi. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Wild Blueberry Concentrations: Antioxidants, Vitamins and Minerals - Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries - University of Maine Cooperative Extension". Cooperative Extension: Maine Wild Blueberries. Retrieved 2022-11-30.
  27. ^ "State Berry - Wild Blueberry | Maine Secretary of State Kids' Page". www.maine.gov. Retrieved 2022-10-08.
  28. ^ Heritage, Canadian (2017-08-15). "Nova Scotia". www.canada.ca. Retrieved 2022-10-08.
  29. ^ Orkin, David (2017-03-05). Nova Scotia. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 289. ISBN 9781784770402.
  30. ^ "State Dessert - Blueberry Pie | Maine Secretary of State Kids' Page". www.maine.gov. Retrieved 2022-12-01.

External links[edit]